Learn about my writing, thoughts on writing, and how you can show the world your words. Understated humor is featured in the mystery series -- Jolie Gentil (at the Jersey shore), River's Edge (along the Des Moines River in Iowa) and Logland (small-town Illinois). Live life with friends - even if some of them can be a pain now and then. The name Irish Roots Author reflects my heritage, as expressed in my family history books.
As with many things in an
electronic world, readers tend to notice newer items--whether in digital,
paper, or audio formats. This is clear from search engines. I typed in the
words "new boo." Yes, that's boo, I didn't even have to finish the
Here are the popular search
New books for 2015
New books out this month
New books released
New books by James Patterson
New books to read
New books released today
New books by Nicholas Sparks
New books out this week
New books released in 2015
So James Patterson and Nicholas
Sparks, how about sharing the wealth--or at least in search results?
Here's the rub. Readers buy
the books of these two authors, so the search engines assume you are looking
for them. The attention is well deserved--great books. People in my
mother-in-law's assisted living residence share Patterson books, and at the
used book store in my Iowa town, the owner wants "any Nicholas Sparks
books you want to trade."
Search for old books and the
most frequent references are to the Old Testament, followed by the value of old
books. My personal favorite was 'old laws still on the books.'
Authors tend to regard their
books as something between a major accomplishment and a precocious (or is it recalcitrant?)
child. Having created them, we want them read, not relegated to the bottom
shelf. We want readers to find the older ones as well as the newer ones.
I've developed some ideas for
publicizing older books, and will update this post with additional ones as I
hear from blog readers. Several ideas may make more sense for a series, and
some pertain more to self-published authors.
1) In the back of every book,
mention older ones. With ebooks you can have links, but I also have a note that
encourages readers to let local librarians and bookstores know they liked a
book and that it is available in multiple formats.
2) Self-published authors can
easily add links to new books in their older books. If you work with a
publisher, ask if they would be willing to add links in newer books to previously
published books. If they do reprints of your paper copies, most do this
automatically, but don't hesitate to ask.
3) My blog has a link entitled
(imagine this) Find My Books. I used to list the web addresses, but am switching to just
putting the site name with the appropriate hyperlink. I tweet the link to this
page periodically, and put it on the back of bookmarks or other swag for
4) Play with prices. I have
eight books and a prequel in the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, and have
begun an approximately eighteen-week process of dropping them (one at a time)
to 99 cents. This gives the chance to do a blitz of bargain tweets, Facebook
posts, and inexpensive online ads. The book will be new to nearly everyone who
sees these promotions.
5) Ask for more reviews. This
can be in the back of every ebook, with gentle phrasing such as, "If you
enjoyed this book, please let other readers know by writing a review on the web
site from which you purchased it. Thank you!"
Books two and three of my series have
relatively few reviews compared to the others. I published the first three
within a few months (having worked on them for a long time), and didn't put the
effort into seeking reviews for books two and three. Fewer reviews lead to
fewer sales. The 99 cent price point will bring in a few reviews. It's never
too late to get more. The first book (Appraisal for Murder)
was stalled at 25 for quite a while. It's up to 39 now, simply by putting the request
in the back and doing a bit more free advertising. Many people get hundreds of
reviews in the first six months. I don't, but the numbers will keep growing if
I keep working.
6) Promote every site that
sells your books. I love Amazon. Its business model changed my life. However,
their promotion methods change, and you don't want your sales to rely solely on
There are fewer books for sale on many
other sites, so yours stand out. My older books sell more (proportionately) on
non-Amazon sites. You can create pages on your blog or web page for each book,
or you can use Kindle
Boards to have a page
per book. Why Kindle Boards? Because in one place a reader
can see links to all Amazon sites (U.S. and international) and three other
sites of your choosing.
7) Put your books in more
formats. Suddenly an older book is new again. It takes a lot of effort to put
out an audiobook, but it can be done at no cost to the author, through ACX (an Amazon company). I also have almost all my
books in large print now. Some people say they don't want to take the time
because there might be relatively few sales per year. So what? Do the large print formatting
while you watch TV (and then proof). As a largely self-published author, I do
this at will. A publishing contract may give a publisher all rights for a
period of years, or could be just for some formats. Check. Do it yourself if
8) This one is heresy. After
thirty years of nonfiction research/report writing work, those skills are
pretty well honed. However, since 2010, I've improved some technical aspects of
my fiction writing. I am going through early books in the Jolie Gentil series
and a couple of stand-alones and taking out extra "I said" and
"she said" phrases and doing a few other minor things. I doubt anyone
who read a book earlier would even notice, but it makes for a smoother read,
which can lead a reader to another book. No, I don't add a new ISBN number.
9) Read, read, read books on
book promotion. There are countless more ways to promote via social media than
there were when your earlier books were published, and ebooks on marketing are inexpensive
or sometimes free. In the physical world, recommendations for media packets have
evolved to less is more. Get current with Jeffrey Marks' Intent
to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novelfor
a resource that deals with all forms of publicity
10) Pretend social media does
not exist and promote without turning on your computer. What?! Some of us don't
put much time into putting our faces (and copies of our paperbacks) in front of
local media or the kinds of organizations that are mentioned in our books. My
Jolie series features a real estate appraiser, and she now runs a food pantry,
as a volunteer. My real estate agent in Indiana loved my books. Have I visited
real estate and offices in my new town of Springfield, Illinois? Nope. I only
made the rounds of some local media outlets and libraries. So, I bought a bunch of
"Mystery Peeps," which are marshmallow candies of unknown flavor. I
will drop these, plus one of my mysteries and some bookmarks, at some local
businesses and media outlets.
11) Help others. Every time you
give books to a charity auction or do a session at a library, you get new
fans. Auction baskets are a really good place for those extra older books.
12) Cross promote with your
blog. See what I did here? I have links to some of my books and other blog
posts. On the blog, I have an index of posts. Each
item can lead a reader somewhere else. If I do a blog post on planting
false clues, there will be a link to one of my books as an example. If your
social media presence is all "buy my book," you will be boring and
few people will act on your pleas.
Things I'm thinking of doing
1. Sending a letter, to
librarians and bookstores within fifty miles, highlighting nearly all of my
books. In the past, I've publicized primarily new releases. I'll send a few
bookmarks and information on how to buy the books on Overdrive. If your ebooks
are not there, many librarians cannot purchase them.
2) At the back of ebooks, adding
information about how to order paperbacks, including large print, and
Things Other Authors Are Doing
Send your ideas to me via
comment here or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll mention your
tip in this post and credit you with the idea.
Generally, authors want their books in front of anyone in
the appropriate age group. Even so, most of us make conscious choices about our
reading audience. We do that in the content itself, and who we populate the
I write murder mysteries for adults, geared to readers who
do not want to read about body parts that did not remain with the newly
departed's torso. These are typically called traditional mysteries (think
Agatha Christie, M.C. Beaton, Raymond Chandler, many books by Robert Parker) or
more recently, cozy mysteries (Louise Penny, Parnell Hall, Dorothy Sayers, Donald
Bain as Jessica Fletcher, often Mary Higgins Clark).
Many traditional mystery writers strike a middle ground for
gore level. A key difference between the traditional and cozy categories is where
the murder takes place—usually off screen, so to speak, in a cozy. Cozies often
have an amateur sleuth, generally a woman.
You can debate categories. I put M.C. Beaton in the
traditional category because her sleuths are (more or less in the case of Agatha
Raisin) detecting professionals. Others say she writes cozies because they are
set in quaint villages with quirky characters. I have seen Sue Grafton's novels
listed as cozy mysteries, but Private Investigator Kinsey Milhone deals with more
varied levels of violence than most cozy mysteries.
Cozy books frequently align with a hobby or non-law enforcement
profession, and you won't find a car mechanic among them. There are a lot of
bookstore, yarn shop, or coffee café owners. Why? These authors have defined
the bulk of their audience as women, and these are professions
with more women than men. The pastel-colored covers with genteel furnishings (and cats) also
cater to women. Some say cozies focus too much on the hobby/profession (how
many kinds of coffee does a reader want to know about?), but for many readers,
that's part of their reading enjoyment.
Not all amateur sleuths are in fields that hold more
interest for women. Nancy Lynn Jarvis' Regan McHenry is a real estate agent, and my
Jolie Gentil is a real estate appraiser. Some sleuths are college professors or
people retired from varied professions. I picked the appraiser position for
Jolie because it gave her time to get into trouble and she would be involved in
a fairly broad cross-section of the town, including its business community.
Before a blog reader comments that my thoughts are sexist,
take a pragmatic look at who buys books. Women read more in general, and read
more fiction than men. Sadly, readership levels (as measured by the National Endowment for the Arts) are dropping. In a given year, barely half of U.S.
adults read a book not required for work or school. Most authors don't write
simply to sell books, and book quality can't be measured solely by sales. Still,
if you're going to all the trouble to put a book out there…
Authors can't simply decide which readers to appeal to, they
have to reach out to them. A traditional publisher helps do that (a lot) simply
with a book's designation or the books they promote together. What author wouldn't
want their book in the same publisher's newsletter as a new James Patterson, Robert
Galbraith, or Janet Evanovich mystery? (None of which are cozies, and some have
placed body parts in varied locations.)
As a self-published author, I reach readers through many
publicity avenues. Most are through social media, but I also use traditional ways—library talks,
book signings, letters to bookstores/libraries. The best (unpaid) publicists are the
friends and readers on my monthly newsletter list. Personal relationships are as
important in bookselling as life.
Some readers (mostly women) write reviews, and I truly value
them. Occasionally I learn something about a character from a reviewer. I may
see a person as quiet, readers may see them as aloof and uncaring. Do I want to
maintain a character as perceived, or have them exhibit their quietness differently
in a succeeding book? You can do that in a mystery series. The bottom line is
that reviewer comments influence who else reads a book.
Iowa State Fair flowers
I'm continuing the Jolie Gentil series and starting a new
one, the River's Edge series, set in a town on the Des Moines River in Iowa. The
new protagonist is a female, but as a landscaper, she is more physically fit
and does things that not every woman does. She can drive a tractor and get down
and dirty in soil. Her brother taught his wife to rope a cow. Maybe Mel,
the landscaper, can learn, too.
In choosing to make another protagonist a woman, I'm
probably skewing readership to my own sex. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld says. However, I've given her a more gender-neutral
profession, and she drinks beer and roots for the Iowa Hawkeyes. My kind of